Summer vacations are relaxing in theory, but the planning leading up to your cocktail-and-cabana moment can leave you more stressed than ever. Ditch airport lines and germ-ridden airplanes, and try this instead: Stay home. We hear you—it hardly sounds like a zen way to spend the weekend—but after a few smart decorating tweaks that cater to each of your four senses, it'll feel like a whole new place. We called on Homepolish interior designer Angela Belt and feng shui expert Laura Cerrano to find out how to have a real staycation and transform your abode into a tranquil retreat.
Unpack your bags, and follow these tips to turn your home into a multisensory, stress-free space.
Address clutter. There's something instantly relaxing about walking into a pristine hotel suite free of clutter and overflowing hampers. To re-create the experience at home, address clutter first. A recent UCLA study found that women who live in a messy environment have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone associated with a string of health issues. Start by placing baskets at every entryway for shoes, and trays and hampers where messes collect.
Layer lighting. "Create a calm environment [by layering] lighting throughout the space," Belt advises. "Try floor and table lamps with neutral color shades like white or beige to evoke a sense of calmness. [Design your own quiet nook by] layering accent lighting with a reading chair in a corner."
Seek symmetry. Consider the flow of the room, and rearrange furniture to create symmetry. "By designing a room with symmetry, you create a mirror-like image in a space," says Belt. "The room looks and feels calmer because there are fewer pieces and objects to focus on."
Introduce accents in calm colors. Cerrano believes décor in "foundation or grounding colors" can instantly change the mood of a space. Opt for accent pieces like lamps, trays, and decorative objects in soft shades of lavender, blue, green, beige, or earth tones such as dusty yellow.
Embrace silence. Moments of pure silence can be fleeting if you live in a city or share your home with others. If you're accustomed to the whir of a siren or buzz of background television, it's time to switch off. A Duke University study found that just two hours of silence could improve memory and awareness significantly. Create a zen-like retreat by turning off appliances, and embrace quiet time.
Turn off notifications. There's a reason remote vacations with limited Wi-Fi offer such allure. Research suggests the incessant ping of notifications are addictive and could be to blame for rising stress levels. Channel vacation vibes by turning off phone and email notification alerts, and limit yourself to checking them twice a day.
Open windows. Findings presented at the Acoustical Society of America's annual meeting suggest there's a simple way to boost your mood and productivity: Listen to nature. "Nature sounds can have a restorative effect on our cognitive abilities," says lead author Jonas Braasch, who found participants performed better and reported feeling happier when listening to flowing water or birds.
Curate a playlist. The psychological benefits of music are well-known, but how do you know which songs are best to dispel stress? According to a University of Nevada study, music with about 60 beats per minute is optimal for relaxation. Create a playlist with lyric-free soft classical music or light jazz.
Add natural accents. Create a sense of calm and balance in your home by embracing the Japanese practice of wabi-sabi. The key is imperfection: Opt for accents made from natural materials like rough wood, unpolished stone, or woven jute.
Balance textures. Cerrano says the ultimate zen home strikes a delicate balance of hard and soft textures—think yin and yang. "Yin is female energy, which could be translated in a physical environment to soft textures, darker colors, and low lighting," she explains. "Yang relates to male energy, which could be translated as hard surfaces, solid textures, and a well-illuminated space." Make sure your space is balanced with soft items like a mohair throw and hard surfaces like mirrors or ceramic lamps.
Upgrade linens. It wouldn't be a staycation without fresh, fluffy linens. Treat yourself by trading worn towels and sheets for new ones.
Add a fire element. "[Introducing this element] could help create an atmosphere of unwinding and relaxing," says Cerrano. "This could be implemented with candles, a fireplace, or the addition of small accented warm colors in your home."
Choose a citrus fragrance. A Mayo Clinic study found that participants were less anxious during a stressful test when they smelt sweet orange essential oil. "With any citrus smell, lessened anxiety always seems to emerge as a benefit," explains lead coordinator Barbara Thomley. Light a citrus candle, or burn essential oil to reap the benefits at home.
Introduce greenery. Cerrano and Belt agree: Adding living plants or flowers to your home is an instant way to de-stress an environment. "When selecting plants, choose ones that have round, soft, or curved leaves, such as bamboo, peace lily, rubber tree, or Boston fern," says Cerrano.
Snack smart. Feeling stressed? Research suggests you should reach for foods that will help stabilize blood pressure and relieve tension. A 2012 study found that green, leafy vegetables are ideal, as they contain folate, which produces the feel-good chemical dopamine. Other foods to stock your fridge with include turkey breast, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Stock your bar cart. It wouldn't be a vacation without a cocktail in hand. Splurge on a few special bar-cart items (finally, an excuse to buy a gold pineapple tumbler!), mix a cabana-worthy cocktail, and relax knowing you never have to check out.
Planning a staycation? Tell us what styling tweaks you're making to your home.